While many people vacation in Whitefish, Montana for its great access to Glacier National Park, even more wilderness waits to be explored in surrounding areas. Bordered by Glacier National Park to the north and east, Flathead National Forest covers an additional 2,346,000 acres, all within easy access to the charming town of Whitefish.
Exploring Flathead National Forest
Situated in the Rocky Mountains, Flathead National Forest is a luscious National Forest bordered to the north by the Nation of Canada, to the north and east you’ll find the Glacier National Park, to the south the Lolo National Forest, the Kootenai National Forest to the west, and to the east you’ll find the Lewis and Clark National Forest. Thus, placing this remarkable area smack dab in the middle of a natural hub of wonders and adventure. The park is packed with not only scenic views of gurgling brooks, but mountain meadows painted in the hues of wildflowers, towering trees, and a rugged terrain waiting to be explored. Set out on a memorable journey among the lakes, rugged wilderness, wild rivers, over 2,000 miles of trails, campgrounds, and ski areas that comprise the Flathead National Forest. One can even find berry picking and one doesn’t even need a permit for the first 10 gallons. So, not only enjoy exploring thousands of miles of trails, but also come back home and start the process of making delicious wild jams, or just chowing down on handfuls of juicy and delicious forest berries. All of this is ensuring that no matter what your idea of a fun outdoor activity and outing is, you’ll be sure to find it here. Making it the perfect area to visit when you come and visit Montana this coming vacation time.
Whether you want to be physically challenged by the rugged terrain or simply take in the views, there’s something for every nature lover on the grounds of Flathead National Forest. Those interested in wildlife can keep their hopes up for big game sightings such as tall and intimidating bear, proud elk going about their day as they graze in the picturesque meadows, mysterious moose taking a long drink from the fresh and lively mountain stream, big horn sheep which will eye you curiously as you meander through their natural home, mule and whitetail deer which of course are always a lovely sight no matter the day, place, or time of year, and Rocky Mountain goats which are a unique sight that many probably won’t have seen before. Along with these large animals of might and of which even humans would do well to observe from a distance, you’ll also find a variety of smaller creatures such as songbirds, hawks, eagles, owls, gophers, chipmunks, beaver, porcupine, woodchucks, rabbits, and squirrels are commonly sighted from the trail, so keep your camera on hand!
With lakes and rivers weaving their way through the Flathead National Forest, there are plenty of opportunities for enjoying a waterside picnic or cooling off after a tough hike. Some of the larger lakes such as Swan Lake and Tally Lake even accommodate larger ski boats, allowing activities such as water skiing, wake boarding, knee boarding, and all other manner of water sports that one might not have initially expected could be enjoyed in the region. While there are plenty of spots to unlace your hiking boots and dip your toes in, if you’re hoping for more of a swim, consider stopping at one of the popular swimming sites such as the Tally Lake Campground beach area, the Hungry Horse Reservoir developed sites, Lion Lakes (North and South), Ashley Lake Boat site, Holland Lake day use, and Swan Lake day use areas. Another popular water activity is floating the North Fork, Middle Fork, and portions of the South Fork of the Flathead River. Plan a DIY excursion or consider booking a guided float with operators such as Glacier Guides and Montana Raft. If one finds themselves coming during the colder holiday months of December then make sure you look into Christmas Tree Cutting, which for those from the more dense city areas are sure to find a delightfully rustic holiday activity.
With thousands of miles of hiking trails as your disposal, Flathead National Forest is a hiker’s paradise. Consider exploring some of the trails in the Jewel Basin Hiking Area, where you won’t have to share the trail with bikers, horse riders, or ATVs. This area includes 35 miles of trails, 27 lakes, and countless views! Thus, not only is the Flathead National Forest the ideal place for those looking to relax and find rejuvenation in the clean, fresh air of the wilds, but also hosts enough trails, sights, and adventures to keep you entertained well until your final day of departure.
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